Can I make an emergency call on my mobile phone if I don’t have a signal?

Whilst chatting at one of our team’s highly popular Coastal Dog Safety stands a dog owner asked us…”If I don’t have a mobile phone signal how can I call the Coastguard on the beach?”  Don’t panic!  Your mobile can use any provider’s network for emergency calls to ‘999’ or ‘112’.  Some parts of the UK coastline and beaches do suffer from poor mobile phone reception.

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One of our Coastal Dog Safety events

Some phone’s will tell you this with ‘Emergency Calls Only’ on the screen.  Even if the phone has no credit it will call. If you’re struggling to make a call in an emergency it’s worth trying the phone on the other side of your head as this maybe enough to block the signal.

How to call for help using your mobile phone

You can also try sending a text to ‘999’ (if pre-registered) if the phone signal is weak as a text may get through.

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Here’s how to pre-register your mobile phone so that you can send an SMS to the emergency services

  • Send the word ‘register’ in an SMS message to ‘999’
  • You will then receive an SMS message about the service
  • When you have read these SMS messages reply by sending ‘yes’ in an SMS message to 999
  • You will receive a message telling you that your mobile phone is registered or if there is a problem about your registration
  • Your phone MUST BE registered before you use this service
  • Be aware that the text service may take longer than a normal ‘999’ call and it should only be used as a last resort – for example if calling ‘999’ and talking loud would put you in further danger or there is no mobile phone signal whatsoever
  • The SMS to ‘999’ must include which emergency service you need, a brief description of the emergency and your location (including any landmarks). An example of a good text “Coastguard required, one male in difficulty in the water Ramsgate main beach close to Wetherspoons. Ramsgate”.
  • Once you have sent a text you will receive a response which will ask for further detail, or indicate that help is en route.
  • Do not assume your message has been sent unless you receive a reply back sometimes this could take up to 2 minutes.  If you do not receive any response try asking someone to call the emergency services.
  • For more information on this system

Why not check out the RNLI mobile phone ‘calling for help’ leaflet below.

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More useful links

‘Calling for Help’ at the coast – but which device should I choose?

How to call for help at the coast

Acknowledgements

RNLI

HM Coastguard


Andy Mills

Thanet RNLI Community Safety Officer Striving to reduce accidental drownings by 50% by 2024 by spreading key safety messages to Thanet communities and its visitors.